Monday, October 5, 2015


We had a very easy arrival in Lisboa yesterday afternoon, helped by our friendly, talkative (in English too!) taxi driver from the airport and a very smooth orientation from Christina into our beautiful apartment in the very hip inner Bairro Alto area of Lisboa.

We all marvelled at the fact that within a 2 minute walk of our apartment are two of the best Pasteis de Nata (custard tart) bakeries in the city.  Manteigaria is the more famous of the two. At Manteigaria all they make is pasteis de nata...and the actual bakery is in full view of the patrons. We ordered our first batch within half an hour of our arrival last night...YUM!

But this morning, for breakfast we tried the opposition, the Chiado Caffe (mainly because they serve sitting down coffees as well) and we decided that we could not split the two in terms of quality...More research needed I think! We're gonna love this city!
Conveniently for us one of the Lisbon Chill Out Walking Tours had its meet up point in the Plaza Luis de Camoes, just around the corner from our apartment so we met our leader Rafa there this morning, ready to start learning a bit about this city.
We started off walking the streets of this arty, hip Bairro Alto district, party central for Lisbon young things who hit the streets after 11.30 each night, after dinner (Maxie and Rod already knew this as their bedroom faces out to the street where there are some great bars!).........

Rafa is a history graduate, a philosopher and a wonderful communicator. We spent four hours in his company today....and he is without doubt one of the most engaging, thought provoking presenters of any walking tour we have ever done. I will never remember the route he took us other than that we crossed through the Baixa district, the very old Alfama district and made our way almost up to the highest point of the city where there are the ruins of the Castle of Sao Jorge, but we all certainly came away knowing a lot more about the fascinating history of this city and the nature of the challenges Lisbon and Portugal face today. .... AND he convinced us we all have to learn to use the correct name for this city..Lisboa (pronounced something like Leezh..bow..with a tiny little "a" inflection at the end).

We learnt that the dictator Estado Novo retreated to this building during the one day "Carnation Revolution" in 1974 that saw Portugal change to a democratic country and end its days as the longest lived authoritarian regime in Western Europe. It also spelt the end of an empire as Portugal withdrew from its long, bloody colonial wars being fought in East Timor (close to home) and West Africa.
The facade of this church in the same square as the Museo National Guard survived the devastating Lisboa earthquake and tsunami on 1st November 1755 (All Saints Day) but very little else in this part of 18th century Lisboa did.  The city managed to rebuild itself afterwards as a more "modern", planned city but there was a serious questioning of religious ideals afterwards granted that thousands were killed as they congregated in Catholic churches on that fateful day.

Lisboa is a gritty kind of city..we can see it is not hugely wealthy...there are quite a lot of buildings in disrepair...but it reminds us of Berlin a lot.  It has a very positive energy....very different to the little bit we saw of Spain which seems conservative and very respectable in comparison.

For Rafa these building represent the Portuguese concept of "saudade" which seems to refer to a deep state of nostalgia or melancholy for an absent something or someone that one loves.......(Rafa thinks the whole country is in a state of saudade - much as he loves the place!)

This view looks out to the old Alfama district (original home of Fado music) and Lisbon Cathedral, Lisbon's oldest building, started in the 12th century for the city's first bishop the English crusader Gilbert of Hastings. The Alfama district survived the 1755 Lisboa earthquake, the terrible fires in the aftermath and then the tsunami better than other parts of the old city (and unlike the rest of the city then it was predominantly Muslim).

These massive cruise liners on their one day/one afternoon stopovers are changing this area of Lisboa in ways that many of the locals don't welcome. Passengers sweep through these areas in their thousands, ogling the locals as though they are in a zoo.

Four hours later we were ready for lunch, but much better advised now we head back down to Rua dos Bacalhoeiros for a long, late seafood lunch which we all rated even higher than last nights great meal at a seafood place near our apartment. None of us have yet tried the salted cod much beloved by the Portuguese. Apparently they have fished out all the cod supplies in just about the whole of the Atlantic ocean!!

We walk back to the Bairro Alto, past the huge Praca de Comercio where in 1755 so many died in the tsunami following the massive (over 9 point Richter scale) earthquake. 

It's threatening heavy rain by the time we get near our apartment - leaving us just enough time to purchase a few more pasteis de nata for our supper before the rain and the wind really set in.

Luckily Lisboa is very hilly so we can afford to eat a few pasteis while we're here!!

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